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Teachers explore an engineering design process for elementary students at “Diving Deep: Transforming Educational Practice for All Students through CCSS/NGSS” conference at UC San Diego.

“When educators take a Saturday to learn together about new ways to support young people, you know public education is in good hands,” said CREATE Associate Director Susan Yonezawa with her co-organizer EDS Associate Teaching Professor Carolyn Hofstetter.  Along with colleagues, they helped to launch nearly two dozen sessions at last Saturday’s “Diving Deep: Transforming Educational Practice for All Students through CCSS/NGSS” conference at UC San Diego.

“Diving Deep” was a one day conference developed and hosted by UC San Diego’s Department of Education Studies (EDS) and the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE).  This second annual event for teachers again attracted 300 K-20 educators from the region to Pepper Canyon Hall at UC San Diego for a vibrant day of educator-educator learning.

“The Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards ask educators to ‘go deep’ with students,” noted organizers in a simultaneous introduction. “Ideally,” said Professor Mica Pollock in her part of the introduction, “these standards invite students to explore literature and texts rather than just repeat information; to dialogue about mathematics toward deep understanding rather than regurgitate formulae; to investigate claims and reason with evidence like a scientist does; and to problem solve like engineers.”

And with the region embroiled in implementing the new standards, “You might feel like you’re in this transition to CCSS and NGSS alone.” Pollock said. “But we’re actually in this together. As we dive, can we think together as a region, create equity as a region, and ask tough questions together about serving young people better?”

ccss.ngss.openThe conference got off to a fast start with “Education Speed Dating 101,” a networking exercise where conference attendees introduced themselves to someone they did not know to share information about themselves, consider their “greatest strengths,” and spark new relationships for ongoing regional sharing.

ccss.ngssAfter speed dating, conference coordinator and CREATE Associate Director Susan Yonezawa (pictured here) invited teachers to continue to connect during and after the conference by sharing Aha! moments, photos and ideas.

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A wide variety of topics and presenters

The nearly 300 attendees broke off to explore 21 sessions led by 54 educational innovators. Among those innovators were educational practitioners representing a wide variety of positions in the region, EDS and CREATE faculty and staff, NSF-funded master teachers in UCSD’s Noyce programs, and current UC San Diego doctoral students. Additionally, former UC San Diego students, other UC San Diego and higher education faculty, community members, intermediary organization leaders, and students from local high schools helped lead sessions.

Each session tackled another aspect of schooling in the era of CCSS and NGSS. In one session led by Feaster Edison Charter Elementary and STEM Academy, educators teamed up to create innovative ways to engineer a vehicle that could move a piece of cheese three inches across a table.  Another session focused on broadening computer science teaching in high school. Yet another introduced local teachers’ findings about “Smart tech use for equity” in diverse classrooms.

“Pockets of education innovation have popped up in area classrooms, schools and districts over the past year,” Hofstetter said. “We wanted to capture that information and provide teachers with a place to gather and share new approaches and innovations developed in their classrooms,” she added.

Professor and Chair of EDS Alan J. Daly, one of the presenters who helped open the conference, noted that the conference had brought a striking representation of the regional educational community and that the energy throughout the day “was absolutely incredible — and it illustrates the wonderful capacity across our region.”

courtyard“We were excited to offer this opportunity for San Diego teachers to discuss efforts to innovate in their classrooms,” said CREATE director and EDS Professor Mica Pollock. “The teachers and administrators we know across San Diego are leveraging the Common Core and NGSS moment as a chance to design equity-oriented classrooms pursuing deep learning. The great turnout and the sharing that happened all day shows the need for this kind of educator-educator learning.”

“Teachers are in the trenches and want to look outside of their own school sites for inspiration and information,” Yonezawa said. “The EDS/CREATE Diving Deep conference brings together educators for a day of focused conversations and interactions that benefit their teaching practice.”

One such session centered on competency-based grading at Del Lago Academy in Escondido through the eyes of students and teachers.  A lively conversation, led by Del Lago Academy students Britsi Abarca, Martin Ghattas, Aruna Gossai and Alias Qayum, along with their teachers Dr. Alec Barron and Allison Talbott, addressed how the school’s new grading system supports student learning.

Linking professionals in many roles

In addition to teachers from all subject areas, conference-goers and presenters included Special Education teachers sharing and seeking strategies for supporting young people with disabilities through the new high standards; college preparation specialists; and a broad cross-section of educators outside of the classroom.  Dawn Derouin, school program manager for the San Diego Natural History Museum, said she attended the conference because she wanted to ensure that museum programs for students are aligned with NGSS Common Core Standards in order to support local schools.

“Currently, the museum has in-house programs and we go to school sites. While we offer a lot of project-based classes right now, it’s very important we’re aligned with the new standards that are coming out,” she said.

Jeanna Wersebe, a teacher librarian at Oceanside Unified School District’s El Camino High School and student in the UC San Diego/CSU San Marcos Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, wanted to attend the conference to get better ideas on how to incorporate library resources with the NGSS standards.

“Being a teacher librarian, we tend to be underutilized, especially by the math department and the science department. I wanted to find new ideas and ways to approach math and science teachers to show how reliable resources and technologies can work together in those subject matters,” she said.

Wersebe attended the “Smart Tech Use for Equity in the Era of CCSS and NGSS” session led by Kim Douillard, Cardiff Elementary teacher and director of the San Diego Area Writing Project; Michael Salamanca, math and engineering teacher at Madison High School and lecturer in the Department of Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego; Jeri Aring, third grade teacher at Chula Vista Hills Elementary School; Serena Pariser, eighth grade English Language Arts teacher at Gompers Preparatory Academy; and Mica Pollock, CREATE director and EDS Professor.

Here, Mica Pollock introduces some guiding questions of the Smart Tech Use for Equity effort, including, “Consider one example of tech use you have seen or tried that actually did more harm in equity terms than good.” “Tech as babysitter,” admitted one participant.

Here, Mica Pollock introduces some guiding questions of the Smart Tech Use for Equity effort, including, “Consider one example of tech use you have seen or tried that actually did more harm in equity terms than good.” “Tech as babysitter,” admitted one participant.

“We wanted to move beyond a ‘bells and whistles’ and ‘all tech is good’ approach to tech use, to ask whether specific uses of tech actually support deep learning,” said Mica Pollock to open the session. “So, we asked a small group of teachers a basic question. ‘If you walked into a classroom and saw smart tech use for equity in action, what would you be seeing?’ Teachers didn’t see everyone on devices; they had visions of students dialoguing about literature, or talking through science, or discussing math. Since then, we’ve been supporting an initial set of local teachers to test specific uses of technology with equity in mind, while documenting the consequences for students.”

Serena Pariser shared her test of two tech tools to support middle schoolers to dialogue about literature; Jeri Aring shared her efforts to use iPad videos to support third graders to dialogue about math. The group also shared Sweetwater teacher Alicia Johal’s efforts to see whether a tool called “Explain Everything” might support eighth grade English learners to express their understandings of science.

Highlighting specific innovative strategies

Several conference sessions addressed the integration of CCSS-Mathematics principles into math instruction. EDS faculty members Rusty Bresser and Caren Holzman, along with math consultant Andrea Barraugh, presented on elementary-level CCSS strategies spreading in the Poway Unified School District. Fellows and leadership from Math for America San Diego (MfA SD), a professional development and fellowship program housed at CREATE, presented on mathematics for the critical moments of middle school and early high school.

Dr. Ovie Soto, senior associate, Math for America San Diego, (right) Genevieve Esmende, mathematics teacher from Wangenheim Middle School and Kathleen Barry, mathematics teacher from Guajome Park Academy (left) led “Preparing for Transformational Geometry in High School – A Middle School Introduction.”

Dr. Ovie Soto, senior associate, Math for America San Diego,  Genevieve Esmende, mathematics teacher from Wangenheim Middle School (center) and Kathleen Barry, mathematics teacher from Guajome Park Academy  led “Preparing for Transformational Geometry in High School – A Middle School Introduction.”

“The purpose of our session was to help teachers understand how to support students in deductive reasoning, the core of geometry,” Soto said. “We showed how to use MIRAs (a mathematics geometry tool) to have students make reflections of images and then discover important geometric properties of reflections. Gen Esmende focused on early middle school activities, featuring CCSS-mathematics integration, and shared activities attendees can take directly to the classroom. Kathleen Barry provided context at the high school level, including how geometric reflections, translations and rotations can be used to prove important theorems in a geometry class.”

Former UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox attended the session, pointing out the difficulties parents have in understanding the new set of standards. Professor Jeffrey Rabin, Department of Mathematics at UC San Diego, raised several issues and helped the group understand how properties of reflections are related.

At a lunchtime session, Lisa Hawk and David Weber of The Preuss School UCSD shared their advisory model as an equity innovation for college preparation, introducing it as one mechanism to “get kids through the high standards of the CCSS/NGSS.” In the Preuss advisory model, one advisor stays with 30 students for seven years, becoming a key advocate and college application mentor. “How do we support a diversified student body through high level curriculum?” Hawk and Weber asked. The foundation, they said was “a sense of belonging and inclusion they so desperately need. And we all know that when that happens, learning happens.”

Other sessions of the day tackled the critical intersection between science and literacy. Kathy Melanese, director of San Diego’s branch of the California Reading and Literature Project, and Kathryn Schulz, director of the San Diego Science Project (both in CREATE), each led sessions exploring how new standards ask for students to read and analyze nonfiction text. Science can spark excitement about nonfiction text; conversely, reading and writing are essential to understanding science. “Old boundaries between ‘science’ and ‘literacy’ are coming down,” said Schulz. “Each needs the other.” Schulz’s session also focused on the need for K-12 science learners to hone their argumentation skills – a skill expectation shared by both the CCSS and the NGSS.

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Kathy Melanese, director of the California Reading and Literature Project (CRLP) at UC San Diego, (pictured here) with Jessica Nascimento, a biology teacher in the Sweetwater Union High School District, lead “Close Reading in Science: Supporting Claims with Evidence and Reasoning (Grades 6-12).”

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At the CRLP session, teachers learned how to engage students in reading complex text focusing on specific strategies in order to scaffold understanding of the text and key scientific concepts. The session featured a simulation of a close reading lesson in a biology class and shared ways to design lessons to scaffold reading in science.

wendyoconnorWendy O’Connor, Vista Unified School District’s early literacy coordinator in Curriculum and Instruction, led “K-2 Balanced Literacy,” featuring her district’s journey implementing English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards into K-2 curriculum.  Recent district work focuses on organizing ELA resources to provide a balanced literacy structure with the goal of all students becoming proficient readers by third grade.

Kathryn Schulz, director of the San Diego Science Project, leads conference attendees through “Connecting NGSS and CCSS Literacy in Science,” a comprehensive overview integrating literacy and Next Generation Science Standards.

Kathryn Schulz, director of the San Diego Science Project, leads conference attendees through “Connecting NGSS and CCSS Literacy in Science,” a comprehensive overview integrating literacy and Next Generation Science Standards.

University City High School Biology teacher Marj E. Atkisson came to the conference because she wanted specifically to learn how to implement reading and writing into her biology classes.  At Schulz’s session, Atkisson found learning about science notebooks for students particularly helpful.

“Use of notebooks will help my biology students learn to do tables and drawings, and it puts a reading element into the lesson.  I have students write, but they don’t read a lot in my class,” Atkisson said. “I do group work, but I’d like to see individual reactions to the reading. I’m going to add a reading element at the end of each lesson. Students will do an experiment one day, and then read and do the reading exercise the next.”

Kara Fradsham, a fifth grade teacher at Los Penasquitos Elementary School, was similarly excited to learn how to incorporate reading and writing into her curriculum.

“I really enjoyed the literacy and science session with Kathryn Schulz,” Fradsham said. “The idea that you can embed reading and writing and speaking and listening in science is great because you’re covering so many of your standards and what you need to cover, by tackling your content area.  A lot of time the content area – like specific aspects of science — is what gets set aside, because you have to focus so much on literacy. The idea that you can really hit all those components together is great.”

“What’s great about the conference is it really ties together NGSS and Common Core. And with the shift that’s happening, it’s great to hear from people around the county on what’s happening in their classes and at their schools so you can take it back and apply it in your own classrooms,” Fradsham added.

Another teacher overheard at the end of Schulz’s session reacted to the organizers’ follow-up question, “what do you now want to learn about CCSS/NGSS?” with “Everything! All of it!”

For more information about the conference, and if you’re interested in participating in next year’s event, contact Susan Yonezawa at create@ucsd.edu.